Winds force PyeongChang sponsors to activate contingencies
By Jonathan Rest in PyeongChang
Olympic Alpine skiing finally got under way today after two days of postponements caused by windy conditions in PyeongChang that have put organisers in the spotlight over athlete safety and forced some International Olympic Committee ‘TOP’ sponsors to dip into their contingency plans.
The inclement weather has impacted on some activation plans from TOP sponsors, with one having scrapped plans for an outdoor pop-up store because of the cold, Sportcal understands.
There have also been frustrations over the late cancellation of some events, particularly if VIP guests have been brought in for the day from Seoul (a near two-hour train ride from PyeongChang).
Several of the long-serving TOP sponsors told Sportcal the late changes are par for the course for a winter Olympics.
Coca-Cola, the US soft drink giant, said: “As long-standing Olympic partners, we’ve been exposed to these type of situations on previous occasions, particularly during Winter games. As a result, we always have in place robust contingency plans that allow us to adapt our hospitality programs to such operational risks. We are continuously working with POCOG [the organising committee] to manage these unavoidable situations as smoothly as possible, based on our pre-planned risk assessments and contingency plans.”
In a statement, Nobuyuki Tamura, vice-president of Bridgestone Corporation, the Japanese tyre manufacturer, and director of its corporate Olympic and Paralympic office, told Sportcal: “We are fortunate to have a strong foundation of large-scale event experience, so we know every big event of this nature brings with it a unique set of challenges. PyeongChang 2018 is no different, so we worked to develop contingency plans should the weather have any impact on our programme.”
General Electric, the USA-based multinational conglomerate, Samsung, the Korean consumer electronics giant, and Intel, the USA-based computer chip manufacturer that is the newest TOP sponsor, all insisted publicly that their hospitality “has not been impacted” by the weather.
A spokesman for Toyota, the Japanese car manufacturer, said: “Weather can be an issue at any winter games, so we were (and are) prepared for schedule changes.”
Toyota is almost invisible at these games, having sent only a few dozen representatives to PyeongChang.
The company’s TOP deal with the IOC runs from 2017 to 2024, but it agreed to take a back seat in PyeongChang almost three years ago when Hyundai, the Korean car maker, and Kia, its smaller affiliate, signed as domestic sponsors of the games.
The two companies are providing a fleet of about 4,100 vehicles.
Special dispensation was given to Pyeongchang 2018 under the contract to sign its own exclusive car sponsorship deal, given the unique dominance of Hyundai and Kia in their local market.Toyota’s logo is, therefore, nowhere to be seen in PyeongChang, but it still has the right to use the Olympics logos in its advertising elsewhere in the world, as it did in USA during the NFL Super Bowl earlier this month.
Schedule pressures ease The biting wind, which added a chill factor to temperatures already hovering around minus 20 degrees Celsius, abated enough today to ease pressure on the skiing schedule.
At the Yongpyong resort (pictured) yesterday, the women’s giant slalom was postponed, and is now set to take place on Thursday, the same day as the men’s downhill, the sport’s marquee event.
The gusts were not as strong at the Phoenix Snow Park but caused farcical conditions for the women’s slopestyle final with 20 of the 25 competitors falling in the opening run.
The FIS, skiing's governing body, was forced to issue a statement in the aftermath of Monday’s competition, noting: “The first priority is the safety of the athletes and FIS would never stage a competition if this could not be assured.
“The FIS Jury monitored the weather conditions closely throughout the day, including consulting with the coaches, and considered it was within the boundaries to stage the competition safely.
“FIS always aims for the athletes to be able to stage their best performances, which some athletes have expressed was not the case today, but the nature of outdoor sports also requires adapting to the elements.”
The IOC insisted the safety of athletes “is the number one priority,” adding: “Each federation has a wealth of experience so we bow to that. We would never take a decision that would put in question the safety of the athletes. Obviously we are consulted but we bow to the federations on technical decisions.”
IOC spokesman Mark Adams said of the schedule congestion: “There are reserve days, and plenty of time to get competitions in. Nagano [1998 winter Olympics] held the downhill five minutes before the closing ceremony.”